The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter


This 17th-century scroll recounts the story of Taketori Monogatari (The tale of the bamboo cutter), famous as the earliest piece of prose fiction in the Japanese literary tradition and originally written around the 10th century. In the scroll, flowers are drawn on the paper of the main text. The main preoccupation of the story is Kaguyahime, discovered as a tiny infant inside a mysteriously glowing bamboo stem by an elderly bamboo cutter. He and his wife raise her as their daughter, and Kaguyahime quickly becomes a beautiful young woman, a shining princess. Destined to return to the moon, her true home, Kaguyahime attempts to discourage her five princely suitors by demanding from them impossible tasks. All fail, and the emperor of Japan too becomes an enamored but rejected applicant for her hand. When an embassy of heavenly beings arrive in a chariot to collect her, she dons a feather robe and they take her back home to reclaim her rightful place as an immortal.

Last updated: December 12, 2017